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Ash Wednesday Reflection by Sister Nancy Miller, Prioress
This year in his Lenten message, Pope Francis implores us to ask the Lord to “make our hearts like yours.” If our hearts are like the heart of Jesus, we will possess hearts that are firm and merciful, attentive and generous, hearts that are not closed or indifferent.
Flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help. Even here closer to home we come up against difficult circumstances and lift our hands in exasperation. What can we do to avoid being caught up in this sense of distress and powerlessness?
Pope Francis suggests three ways:
First, to pray. There is so much positive power in prayer especially as we unite our prayers with the church and with the entire world.
Second, to help by acts of charity. Reaching out to those both far and near who need us and need to know that all of us belong to the one human family.
Third, the call to conversion. The suffering of others reminds us of our own lives and our dependence on God and our sisters and brothers. Pope Francis goes on to say that, “if we humbly implore God’s grace and accept our own limitations, we will trust in the infinite possibilities which God’s love holds out to us. We will also resist the temptation of thinking that by our own efforts we can save the world and ourselves.”
Lord, make our hearts like yours. During this Lent we have the opportunity to engage in a transformation of our hearts. Strong hearts that are open to God bring the love of Christ to others. We truly desire to possess hearts that prefer nothing to the love of Christ.
Benedict wants us to become holier. In Chapter 49 of the Rule of St. Benedict, "Benedict calls us to intensify the meaning of our lives. The Lenten call is not a call for newness; it is a call for returning to God wholeheartedly and helping each other to do that. Returning to God by giving of ourselves to extra prayer, acts of charity, fasting and presence to one another will cost us. It will hurt if it’s real. It will also heal us and those we encounter. Ultimately, we will contribute to a more peaceful universe if our Lenten actions, our penitential acts, are done in the Spirit of Christ.
In Catherine de Hueck Doherty’s book, Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter, she says that Lent is a time for each of us to open our hearts to God and to let God wash us clean and to fill us with a hunger and a thirst for God. It is a time to leave behind the things that keep us away from God and things that keep us away from each other. Lord, make our hearts like yours.
My challenge for you, for me, is to remove that which keeps us from prayer, that which keeps us from doing acts of charity, that which keeps us from conversion of heart. And so I ask you to reflect of the following:
*Am I faithful to community and personal prayer? Do I share what I have read and the spiritual insights that I have gained with others?
Acts of Charity
*Am I willing to give of myself, my time, my listening heart to someone who is lonely? Am I willing to contribute to those in need, to donate to local causes? Will I give of my time and energy to someone who needs me?
Conversion of Heart
*Am I open to God’s love, mercy and forgiveness? Am I able to show God’s love, mercy and forgiveness to others, to those I live with, to those I work with, to those I find difficult to deal with?
*How possible is it, with the grace of God, to be reconciled to one with whom I never or seldom communicate?
We have before us 40 days in Lent. Lord, make our hearts like yours. As we look forward to Holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing we can come to believe that our hearts can truly be transformed and that we will be blessed with New Life in Christ.
This is an idea for your Lenten practices. Write the following words on a piece of paper and add a Lenten resolution:
“During Lent I will…”
Keep this slip of paper in your prayer book, Bible, prayer corner. Turn to it often and ask, “Lord, make my heart like yours.”